I enjoy the new growth in spring, not only the colorful flowers but the green conifer trees. The buds on the end of the branches swell with expanding life before the tender new shoots burst forth. The fresh needles are fair in color, contrasting the rest of the tree, and lack the strength of the established limbs. While they are soft and pretty at this stage, they are also vulnerable to damage. Lower limbs and especially succulent tops of small trees are favorite snacks for deer. Farther up the tree the new growth can be broken by wind or birds looking for a place to rest.
As the delicate growth absorbs nutrition from the tree it becomes stronger. In time, the once sagging little twig turns into a firm limb able to withstand dangers. Its color deepens until it blends with the other needles, no longer standing out as “new.”
I watched the new growth this year and thought of the new believers I have seen become part of God’s faithful family. Like the little twig, the new believer needs wisdom and guidance from older followers to help form their foundation. They are at risk of being damaged by friends, relatives and habits from their old life. They do not need judged for being delicate; they need support for solid growth. When they are nurtured and fed they become firm and can stand on their own trust in God when calamity strikes.
All believers grow strong when fed positive food that enriches the soul. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Build up others with your words and actions.
Do you judge someone’s behavior with criticism or do you nurture them because of their sagging faith?
When you have cattle they will, at some point, be a lot of work. A couple weeks ago we took some of our yearling calves to graze down the grass around the barn at our Christmas tree farm. They were corralled with two strands of electric fence, only the zap wasn’t strong enough to keep them in. They got spooked, went through the fence and ran across our property to the neighbors on the hill. Of course, from that point there was no fence for miles.
I had gone to help Jon and Kristi round them up and was soon chiding myself for forgetting my rain pants. The waist-high grass was wet from the continual rain. Once we rounded them up, they cooperated in the drive back to the back. That is until we tried pushing them in to the barn. With no fence, it was the three of us against a group of young, concerned animals. They could bolt and we would be off on another chase.
My mind raced through names of friends that we might call for help. On a Sunday evening, I couldn’t think of any close enough to arrive before a disaster happened. Then the words of a song came to mind, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Of course, He is always with me. And He is my best friend. I began to ask Jesus for help.
The story from I Samuel 6 came to mind. The Philistines took two cows with young calves at their side and separated the calves. The soldiers hitched the untrained cows to a cart and they skillfully and willingly pulled it over the hills to deliver the Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites. God directed the cows against their natural instinct to return to their calves. I called on Him to do the same with our cows as one was eyeing a path of escape. Quietly, the yearlings walked into the barn where we could lock them up until the fence was fixed.
Have you ever tried to fix your problems yourself before asking your friend, Jesus, for help?